The first test between two wounded test teams ended as expected: stalemate. A draw. On a flat pitch. No, this wasn’t in Bangalore, but Trent Bridge— where only a few weeks ago, Sri Lanka escaped defeat in sensational style.
The scorecard didn’t make for great reading for most bowlers and test purists, but the interesting aspect of this match was the fact that BOTH teams were in a clear position to win it at some point. This was before both sets of ‘tailenders’ broke national records to put their team in stronger positions.
Many will remember this as Anderson’s test, but this was also Bhuvi’s coming of age in test cricket. Two half centuries and a five wicket haul ensured he was India’s most valuable player after an incredible IPL season. This is heartwarming news for Indian cricket, but there were others who didn’t pull their weight as usual.
Let us take a look at their individual performances:
Murali Vijay (9/10)
The Indian opener is back in form after a horrid IPL, carrying off from where he left off in South Africa. Persistent faith in him has resulted in him scoring a century and 50 in the same test—making full use of the batsman-friendly conditions. He looked in great touch in the first innings before being given out wrongly, and was the only batsman to look a class apart in both teams. Finally, India could have a stable test opener abroad. Because the other one doesn’t look the part yet…
Shikhar Dhawan (3/10)
Scores of 12 and 29 only confirm what everyone suspects. He gets the starts but fails to carry on. His purple patch is over, and he is now coming to terms with the harsh realities of international cricket—you are only as good as your last test series. He is now facing a dilemma he faced in the first half of his career, and must hang on to his opening slot before Gambhir’s experience is preferred to his carefree gutsy attitude. Lords will be an important match for him.
Cheteshwar Pujara (6/10)
38 and 55 look good on paper, but the man could have carried on and batted forever on a favourable pitch. He failed in New Zealand, IPL as well as the Bangladesh ODI series, and needs this series to confirm that he is still indeed India’s most reliable test batsman. A boost of confidence could be in the form of a century at Lords, or perhaps a match-saving 50 at some point soon. Can he emulate Dravid’s form in England? Time will tell.
Virat Kohli (1/10)
A rare double failure for India’s premier batsman. Single-digit scores aren’t worrying because you know he will hit back immediately in the next test. But a long break between the IPL and this series could do him harm, unless he decides to tap into his reserves that has brought him test centuries abroad consistently over the last year.
AM Rahane (4/10)
Could have done a lot better than the starts, and failed to carry on like most batsmen. He has replaced Rohit Sharma at 5, which is arguably a tougher position to bat in because it is neither here nor there. At 6, he was effective as ever with the tail-enders, but this is a new role with Binny now in the side. Must punch above his weight at Lords and prove his worth again.
MS Dhoni (6/10)
He batted wonderfully in the first innings, applying himself in alien conditions, but his test captaincy only proves that he should be in the side only as a wicketkeeper. Some inept decision making even took the spotlight off Cook and let England escape a first innings deficit after Anderson and Root put on close to 200 runs for the last wicket. That is inexcusable leadership and he must be taught a lesson soon.
R. Jadeja (3/10)
Played two terrible innings, a pain to watch because of how he struggled and batted like a pinch hitter. His scores of above 20 in both don’t do his lack of talent any justice, and he bowled without any success in the first innings. He is being played ahead of Ashwin overseas, and it is hard to choose between their lack of penetration bowling-wise. Ashwin is a better batsman, as is anyone in the line-up with a bit of common sense.
S. Binny (7/10)
Almost a forgettable debut till he played a gutsy match-saving knock in the second innings. He was rarely used with the ball by Dhoni, which made many wonder why he was picked ahead of Rohit for this test. He grabbed the opportunity with the bat and displayed guts last shown by VVS Laxman in test cricket. Held onto his place for another test match at least.
B. Kumar (10/10)
A perfect performance by India’s medium-pace swing bowler. He proved his worth as a batsman and played Ashwin’s batting role to perfection, with a 5-wicket haul to boot. This is the beginning of a patch that could see India’s chances to win abroad increase tenfold if Bhuvi becomes their Kapil Dev.
Ishant Sharma (6/10)
He remains India’s most experienced bowler, and yet again proved that he has those spells of magic in him. Yet, he went for 150 runs in less than 40 overs, and failed to claim Anderson till it was too late. India’s pace bowlers need to be able to bowl out a team when needed, but Ishant symbolizes their lack of intent at the end.
M. Shami (6/10)
Batted beautifully in the first innings, but bowled like an inexperienced soul on a pitch that should have seen him swing out Anderson in no time. Wasn’t helped by Dhoni’s captaincy, but will need to improve on seam-friendly pitches later on in the series if he wants to help India claim their first overseas victory since 2011.